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03/22/08 9:30 PM ET

New batting order already a hit

With Helton at No. 3 and Holliday fourth, Rockies come up big

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Rockies went to the World Series with Matt Holliday batting third and Todd Helton behind him in 2007, but this spring is indicating that the club could be better with that order reversed.

Helton has overcome an early spring slump and is batting .415 and has eight walks. Holliday also is approaching regular-season form with a .326 batting average. Helton went 3-for-4 with two doubles and Holliday was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk in Saturday's 12-11 victory over the Diamondbacks.

"It's growing on me," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "I haven't seen it as much as I'd like."

With Helton traditionally excused from Spring Training trips because of his history of back problems, Holliday getting the right to stay in Tucson, Ariz., that comes with big league time, and teams not using normal strategy, Hurdle hasn't seen how opposing managers will counter the new lineup.

Last year, Holliday led the National League with a .340 average and knocked 36 home runs and an NL-leading 137 RBIs. But Hurdle kept Holliday third because he felt teams still wanted to challenge him rather than Helton, who hit .320 and put up a .434 on-base percentage. Also, it worked.

Last year, the left-handed hitting Helton was followed in run-production threats by the right-handed hitting Garrett Atkins and left-handed swinging Brad Hawpe. Opposing managers would bring in their toughest lefty reliever for Helton, take their chances with Holliday and have the lefty for Hawpe.

With the new lineup, the manager would have to decide whether to have that lefty face Holliday and Atkins between Helton and Hawpe.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.